As of February 7th, 2017 Betsy Devos is fully responsible for the United States’ education department. Devos was officially confirmed as Education Secretary with a vote of 51 to 50, or as President Trump would say, “A landslide”. To be completely fair, Trump has been quoted saying, “I love the poorly educated”, so I guess this pick makes sense.
Even after being sworn in, one question continues to loom over Devos. Is she qualified enough to be in this position? Some argue yes, and some give a hard no. Most republicans say yes, while most democrats say no. Essentially the whole debate has been operating like a seesaw.
The left argues she possesses little knowledge about education policy, and would only put a dent in our public school system. Senator Elizabeth Warren actually believes no education secretary has ever been “less qualified or more dangerous.” The right argues her commitment to children is essential to being the Education Secretary of the United States. In recent interviews, Devos has expressed that she is “committed to helping public schools thrive – along with alternatives that parents want.” But what’s more important, experience, or commitment to children?
Let’s take a glance on how this could potentially turn out positively. The left worries of her lack of experience but New York Times pointed out, “Secretary Devos’ views are not so different from the Obama administration’s pro-charter schools position and are almost identical to the perspectives of Senator Corey Booker(D)”. The main difference lies in her educational philosophy. Under Obama, the federal government polluted the school curriculum and its values. One example would be their influence on restroom policies. Devos has provided a sign of parting from this. She has stated that she “will not turn Democratic encroachment into Republican encroachment; instead, she will reduce federal encroachment in order to empower families, local communities, and states”. Her idea appears to have potential in the future, but how can we be sure without a track record to support her.
One simply cannot ignore her past. She has no experience as a government official or as a school administrator. It seems fair to compare her others that have sat in the same seat she sits in now, so let me rewind a few years. Shirley Hufstedler, our very first Education Secretary, worked as teacher before being appointed. Terrel Bell, under Ronald Reagan, spent years as a superintendent in several states. Lauro Cavazos, under George H.W. Bush, was a professor at Tufts University and Texas Tech University. And if they didn’t have an educational background, he or she had experience in being a government official. President Clinton’s Education Secretary, Richard Riley, was governor of South Carolina where he emphasized education. Now with this in mind, we must also be reminded of her questionable performance during a confirmation hearing.
Devos put on a display that raised a lot of concerns through the senate. She was asked relatively simple questions that any soon-to-be Education Secretary should have an answer too. Her response to one question was simply, “I support accountability” about three times when the only response needed was yes or no. She was asked about student performance being measured with respect to proficiency or growth. Devos’s response simply defined growth all while “supporting” proficiency. Her answers leave you to wonder how can she improve our countries education when she can’t provide an answer to basic questions. Essentially, putting her in this position would be as risky as electing a president with no political experience.